Tyree Washington's dream relay team (© Getty Images)
USA’s 2003 world outdoor and indoor 400m champion Tyree Washington was one of the most formidable one-lap exponents of his generation. Here he offers his take on his all-time great men’s 4x400m team in the latest in our series ahead of the IAAF World Relays Bahamas 2017.
First leg: Steve Lewis (USA)
1988 Olympic 400m champion and 1992 Olympic 400m silver medallist
Steve was a very aggressive runner who ran a mean 300m. He won the 1988 Olympic title as a 19-year-old and was phenomenal. He was very strong, ran with no fear and, to be honest, he could have run any of the four legs. But why I chose him for the first leg is because of his aggression and his ability to handle the pressure. In 1988 he showed a lot about his character by defeating two seasoned athletes in Butch Reynolds and Danny Everett to the gold medal. With the first leg of a relay you face a tremendous amount of pressure, so it is important to have a runner who can maintain their composure. When it comes down to the nitty-gritty, Steve will take on everybody.
Second leg: Quincy Watts (USA)
1992 Olympic 400m champion and member of the USA’s world record 4x400m team
I’m going for my former teammate big Quincy Watts to run leg two. Quincy was very fast – he set an Olympic record 43.50 when winning gold in Barcelona which is not too shabby – and extremely strong with this nice high-knee style as a quarter-miler. He too also showed his composure to win the 1992 Olympic final.
The second leg runner needs to be very aggressive, particularly as coming off the back straight of the second leg there is a lot of jostling and fighting for position. Quincy is a big boy at about 6ft 4in (1.93m); he’s no pushover and would be my choice for the second leg.
Third leg: Wayde Van Niekerk (RSA)
World and Olympic 400m champion and world record-holder
The kid is unbelievable. He has phenomenal foot speed as a sub-20-second 200m sprinter and a sub-10-second 100m sprinter. He also has a strong mentality, a bit like a silent assassin in that he doesn’t care who he competes against, he just manages to pick them off. I like his patience in races. He doesn’t get caught up with what others are doing and I like that discipline.
The reason why I pick him on third leg is because even if he has a big lead, he’s not going to let up. He also destroyed Michael Johnson’s world record and I think he can be like Usain Bolt as the next superstar athlete that everyone will look up to.
Fourth leg: Michael Johnson (USA)
Two-time Olympic 400m champion, four-time world 400m champion and former world record-holder
I raced against him for close on eight years and he was a very experienced runner who made few errors. He was also extremely patient with a tremendous amount of turnover. He was always very calculated and very composed.
Another fact about Michael is he got stronger through the rounds when many other athletes decline. He was a very strong finisher and in his prime Michael was very hard to beat. I can’t think of anybody better to maintain a lead and then open an even bigger advantage.
How fast could they run?
The current world record stands at 2:54.29 and I believe this quartet could run 2:53.20 – at least a full second faster. There is something about having a baton in the hand, which to many is like having super human powers and knowing you have such quality teammates would take them to another level.
Steve Landells for the IAAF